Day At The Track
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It was an afternoon of harness racing favorites prevailing on Thursday at Saratoga Casino Hotel.   That was until longshot Imacrazynewyorker (Crazed) posted not only the biggest price of the year at the Spa but the biggest win payoff in a couple of seasons.   Imacrazynewyorker pulled off the upset in Thursday's $9,950 feature for New York Sired trotters at odds of 102-1.   Heading into Thursday's tilt, the John Hallett-trained trotter had not finished on the board in 2016 but that all changed after a second-over trip led to the major upset.   Mark Beckwith piloted Imacrazynewyorker to victory in 2:00.2.   The win price was an eye-popping $206 for the longshot who led an exacta with the favored Meshugana Miss (Bruce Aldrich Jr) second that came back $496.   The race's triple paid $2,702 with third place finisher Kinda Naughty (John Stark Jr).   Live racing continues on Friday at Saratoga with first post time set for 6:45pm.   Mike Sardella

Be A Sport (Sportsmaster) lengthened his harness racing win streak on Thursday at Saratoga Casino and Raceway. The Maureen Salino trainee dominated in his final two starts of 2015 winning by a combined 18.5 lengths. In the four year old's first start of '16, Be A Sport cruised to another convincing victory last week and subsequently was the race's 1-9 betting favorite on Thursday evening at the Spa. Starting from post position one, Be A Sport had no trouble making the early lead before holding off a late challenge from pocket sitter Mikado Blue Chip (Frank Coppola Jr) who ended up second best. Sports Force (Austin Siegelman) earned the show spot. Be A Sport, who was piloted by Mark Beckwith, was the race's overwhelming favorite as he completed his grand slam in the $6,400 pace for colts and geldings who were non-winners of two races or $15,000 lifetime. Be A Sport is owned by Nick Tallarico and Tom Vassilou, the same combination who own the Spa's back to back Trotter of the Year Slugfest who participate in Sunday afternoon's Open Trot. Live racing continues on Friday at Saratoga with a first post time set for 6:45pm. Mike Sardella

Freehold, NJ --- Harness racing driver Mark Beckwith thought Blazin Benny’s career was finished. Recurring ligament issues forced the trotter to the sidelines and Beckwith was prepared to retire the horse, even to the point of tentatively finding another home for the gelding. But then one day Beckwith saw Blazin Benny trotting across a field, appearing sound. And then Beckwith received a phone call from the person who was going to take Blazin Benny, with the caller telling Beckwith he had no room for the horse at the current time. So Blazin Benny returned to training. And racing. And winning. Blazin Benny leads all harness racing horses in North America in victories this year, with 23 triumphs. The 7-year-old trotter is owned by Irwin and Ellen Kaplan’s Mo Coo Inc. and Jonathan Klee Racing, who first bought the horse in May 2014. Beckwith drives Blazin Benny and the horse is trained by Beckwith’s wife, Melissa. Beckwith and Irwin Kaplan purchased Blazin Benny privately last year. The horse had a tendency to go off stride in races, but Beckwith liked the trotter’s speed. Blazin Benny won five times the remainder of 2014, but made breaks in four starts. A subsequent change in trotting hobbles suggested by Beckwith’s friend, driver Jim Marshall III, made a big difference this season. “Since I’ve put them on he’s only made one break,” Beckwith said. “That was a major difference. I have to give Jim the credit there.” Blazin Benny, who earned $95,711 this year while competing predominately in the claiming ranks, completed this season by winning his final three starts of the year. He capped his campaign with 1:57.3 score on Dec. 6 at Saratoga Casino and Raceway, a triumph that put him one victory ahead of 3-year-old pacer Wiggle It Jiggleit for the top spot in wins in North America. Third on the list, with 20 wins, is 14-year-old gelding pacer Albert Chief A. Wiggle It Jiggleit also is finished racing this season. “I knew he was tied with Wiggle It Jiggleit for the most wins and I was hoping that it would work out that (Blazin Benny) would get one more,” Beckwith said, adding with a laugh, “So now unless they bring back Wiggle It Jiggleit, I think I’m safe. I’m going to give him a month off and then I’m going to New Jersey and I’ll take him with me and race him at either Yonkers or Freehold.” Blazin Benny twice this year was claimed from the Beckwith Stable, but each time he was claimed back in short order. “I’m a claiming horse guy,” Beckwith said. “We like to win, so we generally have our horses (entered) a notch below where they should be and take the risk of getting claimed. He’s one of those horses that almost anybody could win with him, so he’s attractive that way. All trainers want trotters that don’t make breaks and can leave the gate, so he meets the criteria. It’s a business. “You have to look out for the horse’s well-being and try to race him where he can win and not be too hard on himself at the same time. When you put a horse in a claiming race you can’t expect people not to claim. That’s not fair. “Would it be sad to lose him, yeah, but we have to run this as a business even though he has a lot of sentimental value to us. He’s super around the barn; my kids love him and my wife loves him. But if you’re not careful you end up with a barn full of pets and that’s not going to work.” Kaplan, who has enjoyed success as an owner of claimers, agreed. He said Blazin Benny’s accomplishments were in large part a reflection of the group’s management plan. “It’s an achievement,” Kaplan said. “Most of the credit would go to Mark and Melissa and the management of the horse. He’s Melissa’s favorite horse. That’s her baby. He’s tough and he’s able to win and perform. We’re not afraid to do what we’ve got to do with him. That’s this business. If you put a horse in a claimer, you have to be prepared to lose them. Jon and I make money claiming horses, so I can’t complain if someone claims mine.” Blazin Benny, who started 40 times this year, spends little time training between starts, but does a lot of swimming. A son of Angus Hall-Benn’s Riverdance, he has won 42 of 119 career races and earned $248,398. “The more we can keep him off the racetrack, the better it is for him,” Beckwith said. “We might have trained him once this year. He doesn’t require much work that way. He’s racing almost every seven days. He’s stayed sound. He’s come out of his races very, very well. Even when he doesn’t win, he’s right there at the wire; I don’t think he’s raced bad. “Everything fell into place. The Good Lord shined on us with this one, that’s for sure. He’s been a blessing for all of us. He’s made money and we’ve had a ton of fun with him.” by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications 

So Nice (Ponder) set the track record for harness racing aged pacing mares at Saratoga Casino and Raceway on Friday night. In the year's final Fillies and Mares Open, the Amber Buter-trained pacer powered to the lead approaching the half mile pole before drawing away to a dazzling win in 1:52. The time bests the previous mark of 1:52.1 shared by three different mares as the fastest for an aged mare in the 74 year history of Saratoga. So Nice powered away from her rivals to win by eight lengths in the $18,000 Fillies and Mares Open with Mark Beckwith in the sulky. Longshot Jokes Jet (Phil Fluet) had a strong showing in her debut in the local feature finishing second while the favored Super Soph (Frank Coppola Jr) had to settle for third. So Nice returned $5.70 to win and led an exacta with Jokes Jet that came back $85. The triple with the favorite third paid $289 in the final feature for distaffers for the '15 season. Live racing continues on Saturday for the season's closing night with first post time set for 6:45pm. Mike Sardella

Sixth Man (Duke Of York) pulled off the upset in Sunday's harness racing feature at Saratoga Casino and Raceway. The Melissa Beckwith-trained six year old moved second over at the half but wound up dropping in behind the leader turning for home in the $14,000 Winners Over trot at the Spa. Sixth Man closed up the passing lane and reeled in front-running Flyhawk Thriller (Stephane Bouchard) in the final few strides before stopping the timer in 1:56.2. Mark Beckwith piloted Sixth Man to the trotter's third win in his last four starts. The longshot victor returned $28.60 to win and led an exacta with Flyhawk Thriller that came back $116. Just Make Believe (Jay Randall) earned the show spot and completed the triple that paid a hefty $587. The win was one of three on the card for the meet's leading trainer Melissa Beckwith whose Blazin Benny won for the 21st time this year and whose Suegrabbitnrun set a lifetime mark trotting to victory in 1:56. Live racing resumes on Wednesday evening with a first post time of 6:45pm. Mike Sardella

Bye Bye Michelle (Stonebridge Regal) matched the track record for harness racing aged pacing mares in Friday's feature at Saratoga Casino and Raceway. The five year old mare moved out to the early lead in the 'Winners Over' for distaff pacers and withstood a first half that went in a sizzling 54.4. Driver Mark Beckwith asked Bye Bye Michelle for her best heading towards three quarters and she paced away from her rivals before stopping the timer in 1:52.1, a time that matches the track record for an aged pacing mare. Pocket sitter Bell On Wheels (Western Hanover) finished a distant second while Campanile (Austin Siegelman) closed for third. Bye Bye Michelle's victory, which gave her a new lifetime mark, was her second in as many weeks while going for a purse of $13,000. Live racing continues at Saratoga on Saturday night with first post time set for 6:45pm. Mike Sardella

JK Panache (Art Major) rediscovered his winning ways in the Saturday harness racing feature at Saratoga Casino and Raceway. After a summer season full of wins, JK Panache had gone two months without a victory heading into his try in the $18,000 Open Pace. Mark Beckwith piloted the Dave Dewhurst-trained pacer on Saturday night and moved him out to the early lead, enduring first half fractions of 26.4 and 55.2. The six year old continued his breakout season by sealing the deal in 1:51.1 in the feature. Pocket sitting Thinkofagameplan (Frank Coppola Jr) was the runner up in his first try in the local Open while Major Trick (Jordan Derue) came on for third. JK Panache, the race's 8-5 second choice in the wagering, won for the eleventh time this year and fifth time in the Spa Open after finishing second or third in four of his previous five starts. JK Panache is co-owned by his trainer Dave Dewhurst and Philip Hale. Live racing continues at Saratoga on Sunday afternoon with a matinee beginning at 12:15pm. Mike Sardella

Jericho (Credit Winner) prevailed in Thursday's harness racing feature for New York Sired trotters at Saratoga Casino and Raceway. The three year old was recently purchased by Linda Kenney and the DiStefano & Son Stable of Massachusetts following a season in the New York Sires Stakes. Competing mostly in the Excelsior Series, Jericho had a solid summer and followed up his stint in the Excelsior with a win for new connections in a $20,000 trotting event at Yonkers Raceway in September. On Thursday, Jericho made his return to the Spa and was the public's 4-5 betting favorite while starting from the rail. Driver Mark Beckwith moved the favorite out to the early lead before withstanding a tenacious first-over bid from fellow Excelsior participant Nono Lindy (Frank Coppola Jr). Jericho drew clear of that rival late in the mile and hit the wire first in 1:58.4. The three year old's victory was his fifth in eleven career tries. Nono Lindy finished second while longshot Camp Speedy (Billy Dobson) earned the show spot in the $11,250 feature for trotters. Live racing continues on Friday with first post time set for 6:45pm. Mike Sardella

The Lindy Treaty (Conway Hall) has been a consistent factor this season but despite seven second place finishes hadn't been able to score a harness racing victory in 2015. That all changed on Thursday afternoon at Saratoga Casino and Raceway when the favorite in the featured $10,500 race for New York Sired trotters scored his first win of the season. Driver Mark Beckwith got a pocket ride for The Lindy Treaty but when the race's leader got bypassed by a first over Scarlatti (Jay Randall), the 6-5 favorite had to shake free in the back stretch. Once he did, he tracked down Scarlatti in the final sixteenth of a mile before stopping the timer in 1:58 for his first '15 score. Scarlatti was the runner up while Driving Me Lindy (Stephane Bouchard) earned the show spot. The Lindy Treaty is owned by Christopher Lyons of New Hampshire and the Di Stefano and Son Stable of Greenfield, MA and trained by John Di Stefano. Live racing continues at Saratoga on Friday night with a first post time of 6:45pm. Mike Sardella

Blazin Benny (Angus Hall) lengthened his lead on Sunday as the winningest horse of the meet at Saratoga Casino and Raceway. The claiming trotter scored his seventh local win of the season including six straight by going wire-to-wire with Mark Beckwith in the sulky. Blazin Benny stepped up to the $15,000 claiming level for the first time of the year and had little difficultly cruising to a seasonal best- matching victory in 1:56.1. After competing at a high level at Freehold Raceway this winter, Blazin Benny now has recorded twelve wins in 2015. It was one of two scores on the day for leading trainer Melissa Beckwith who is off to a huge start to the ’15 campaign. Slugfest (Conway Hall) prevailed in the afternoon’s feature, scoring in 1:55.2 to match his own time as the fastest for any trotter at the Spa this season. Jay Randall piloted Slugfest for trainer Maureen Salino. Live racing resumes on Thursday at Saratoga with first post time set for 4:00pm.   Mike Sardella  

There were three divisions of the first leg of the Jim Derue Memorial Trotting Series at Saratoga Casino and Raceway on Friday night. Young trotters competed for their share of the $7,500 per division purses and Golden Stroke was the evening's big star. The Eve Bergeron-trained trotter has been on a tear since adding trotting hopples last month and won for the third consecutive time on Friday night, setting a lifetime mark of 1:57.3. Driver Stephane Bouchard situated Golden Stroke (Yankee Glide) into the pocket and they surged up the passing lane to record the win in the final strides. The win time was the fastest of three divisions of the series' first leg whose other winners were Jackie Goldstein (Kim Crawford), who set a lifetime mark prevailing in 1:58.2, and The Lindy Treaty (Mark Beckwith), who also set a career best stopping the timer in 1:58. The second leg of the Derue Trot will take place next Friday night with the $30,400 final taking place on Saturday October 18th. Live racing continues on Saturday night at Saratoga with a first post time set for 6:45pm. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway

Live racing resumed on Thursday night at Saratoga Casino and Raceway following a week and a half long hiatus. Young pacer Kid PK (Wearable Art) had the daunting task of overcoming post position eight in the evening's $7,490 feature. The Jim Doherty Jr-trained Kid PK is enjoying a solid comeback season after sitting out the 2013 season. Stephane Bouchard sat behind Kid PK following three consecutive second place finishes for the four year old pacer. Showing early speed, Kid PK made the lead early but eventually had to pull the pocket behind a sharply tiring rival before drawing clear to win in a career best 1:57.3. Sweet Water Jack (Billy Dobson) was in the outer flow and wound up finishing second while Stirling Cadillac (Mark Beckwith) earned the show spot in the race for winners of two but not more than four pari-mutuel races lifetime. Live racing continues on Friday night at Saratoga with a first post time set for 6:45pm. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

Tiamo (Artiscape-Incredible Sharon), who had won seven of the last nine at Saratoga Harness, and driver Mark Beckwith had to wait patiently for some racing room in the $9,000 Thursday night feature at Vernon Downs, but that wait was worth it. She worked her way loose in the stretch and exploded down the lane to win in a final time of 1:51.3.   Seascape Hanover (Aaron Byron) cut fast early fractions with a quarter of 26.2 seconds, a 55 second half, and three-quarters in 1:23, but she couldn't hold her lead in the stretch and faded to finish third. Love You Bye (Truman Gale) had stalked the leader from the pocket throughout the mile and was first to pass her, but once Tiamo got going she was much the best.   Tiamo had been pinned in at the pylons as the field made the stretch, but an opening developed and once clear, the race was essentially over.   Tiamo is owned by George and Heather Zitone of Montague, New Jersey. The trainer is Melissa Beckwith.   The complete order of finish was: Tiamo, Love You Bye, Seascape Hanover, Ugly Betty, Oceans Motion, R U Ideal.   Live racing resumes at Vernon Downs on Friday night with an 11-race program. The seventh will be the feature, a $10,000 Open I Trot, with a field of eight entered. The 5-2 morning line favorite is A Penny Earned, who won the Jack Bailey Memorial last out at Vernon Downs on August 29th. Post time on Friday night is 6:45pm.   by Michael Chamberlain, for Vernon Downs

Road Bet (Bettor's Delight) held on to win in the $17,000 co-featured harness racing fillies and mares Open on Friday night at Saratoga Casino and Raceway.  The Kyle Spagnola-trained mare faded late last week when she wound up third after setting sizzling fractions up front. This week, the fractions were still very quick but Road Bet had enough to hang on to win a photo with Tiamo (Mark Beckwith). For Road Bet, it was victory number three in five starts in the local Open for distaff pacers as she stopped the timer in 1:52.3 with Frank Coppola Jr.in the sulky. Tiamo was the runner up for the second straight week in the ladies' Open while Let's Go Higher (Shawn Gray) came on to finish third. The co-favored Road Bet returned $6.90 to win while the exacta came back $38.20 and the triple paid $114.50. Mike Sardella

Campanile (No Pan Intended) has been the most consistent force in the Fillies and Mares Open this year at Saratoga Casino and Raceway and on Friday night, she flexed her muscles once again. The Allan Johnson trainee came into the race as a first or second place finisher in five consecutive $17,000 Opens and was first or second in eight of her last nine local tries heading into Friday's feature. Driver Austin Siegelman was content to get away at the back of the six horse field in the early stages as Campanile's rivals slugged it out posting blistering fractions. The five year old mare swooped the group and recorded a 1:52.2 victory in the Open, her fastest win time of the season. It was one of three wins on the card for Johnson and Siegelman who won with trotters Backstreet Hanover (Andover Hall) and Brussel Sprout (Glidemaster). Campanile returned $7.90 to win in what was her sixth victory of the season. Tiamo (Mark Beckwith) was the Open's runner up while Road Bet (Frank Coppola Jr) held on for third. Live racing continues on Saturday night at Saratoga with a first post time of 7:05pm. Mike Sardella  

Traverse Seelster came to Saratoga Casino and Raceway on Friday night for the first time off an eye-popping mile at Harrington Raceway in Delaware. Under the care of trainer Amber Buter for the first time, the six-year-old trotter was assigned the outside post in Friday's $17,000 Open Trot. Leading driver Billy Dobson floated the race's 1-5 favorite out early and landed him midpack. Moving first over at the half mile pole, Traverse Seelster (Angus Hall) appeared overpowering and cruised by the front running Just Like Lloyd (Mark Beckwith) before stopping the timer in 1:56. Count Speed (Wally Hennessey) also made up quite a bit of ground in the final half to finish second in the feature while longshot A Megabuck (Chris Long) came on for third. For Traverse Seelster, the victory in his local debut was the 29th of his career in 98 starts and served as one of three on the evening for Dobson. Live racing continues on Saturday night at Saratoga with a first post time set for 6:45pm. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway

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